• Josh Anderson

Running Back to You

In 2016, Aaron and Vivian Shugars joined the World Race, a mission trip that sent them to 11 countries in 11 months. What they discovered was a deeper dependence on God and a renewed love for one another. Read more about how traveling in different directions around the world reunited this couple in new and unexpected ways.

In 2016, Vivian and Aaron Shugars spent 11 months traveling to 11 different countries. They helped share the gospel at every stop along the way.

I first got to know Aaron and Vivian Shugars at a fundraiser—their fundraiser. They were selling T-shirts and other items to help pay their way onto the World Race. I had never heard of this 11 month mission trip that sends teams of volunteers to 11 different countries around the world.

I bought a T-shirt and heard some of their story.

The journey would be an intensive 11-month trek, and Aaron and Vivian were responsible for raising all of their own financial support.

If that wasn't a big enough commitment, the World Race was about to send this couple that had only recently been dating at the time in almost completely opposite directions around the globe—for almost an entire year.

It would be a leap of faith with plenty of twists and turns. And though the paths they traveled may have been different, their return destination was the same. It's a pretty great story, and I'm honored to share some of it here.

Vivian Takes the First Step

Vivian was the first to consider going on the World Race.

A nurse by trade who was working at Grandfather Home for Children (now a part of Children's Hope Alliance), she had always felt a deep desire to care for people as a missionary in Africa. Her current circumstances felt more like there was a void in her life.

"I wanted to see the Lord more in my life," Vivian said. "But the more I looked into the World Race, the more excuses I gave myself for not going."

The full commitment of 11 months was too long. How could she possibly be gone from work that long? And she thought the the two-week options were too expensive.

She reluctantly applied, but again dragged her feet on making a decision. That is until she received an email inviting her to join the team.

"I said to God that He had to give me a sign, and he did," Vivian said. "That same night I had some pretty vivid dreams showing me on the field as part of the race." It was something she could no longer ignore.

Vivian accepted the invitation and chose Route 1 with World Race which sends participants to 11 different countries to partner with existing in-country hosts and ministries.

Turns out Vivian had started the application process and was already accepted before she even told Aaron. At the time she said "I wanted to choose God over a boy."

Aaron Stumbles Along

Aaron was firmly against going on the race, especially after hearing that Vivian had already been accepted. It took him about a month to come around to the idea.

Even though he knew there was a policy against people dating while on the race, he applied for the World Race, albeit a different route. He wanted a route to more coastal areas because he thought he could do a lot of diving. "Priorities, right," Aaron joked.

"I was turned down," Aaron said. "They asked me some pretty personal questions about my lifestyle and the heart behind my answers didn't match up with their expectations."

Aaron realized that he needed to put God first instead of selfishly focusing on his earthly desires.

"Sin prevented me from doing what I wanted to do," Aaron admitted. "That's when I committed to really living my life for God instead of just trying to be a good person."

For Aaron, he needed the guidance of others to help him find his way. Together with Vivian, he participated in a ministry school led by Scott and Becky Lycan and Paul Sherar. Although, admittedly Aaron was against that too.

"I wasn't at all comfortable with it at first, but Scott and Becky helped me so much," Aaron said. "Their hearts led me back to God and they taught me how to pray."

That newfound ability to pray with boldness helped Aaron as he decided to reapply for the World Race. Initially he was told race leadership to wait one year before doing so. Instead he waited about six months before submitted a new application. This time he applied for the Expedition Route—a much harder version of the race.

"I remember having a phone conversation with a World Race representative who asked why I didn't wait a year like they suggested,"